I just spent 28 minutes watching Scott Bassett, a candidate for Salem's City Council in Ward 4, discuss the Salem River Crossing project way more intelligently than any current public official has.
Especially if you live in Salem and aren't thrilled about having your taxes raised by hundreds of dollars a year ($200 for 20 years, on a $200,000 house) to pay for a bridge that is utterly unnecessary.
Bassett pointed out lots of facts that argue against spending more than the $7 million that's already been wasted on this Bridge That Is Going Nowhere.
I can confidently call it that for several reasons: (1) Local taxpayers aren't going to approve funding for a bridge that clearly isn't needed; (2) State land use laws are difficult to get around, and this bridge requires exemptions to them.
Here's some of what Bassett said:
-- The $400 million that misguided City of Salem officials want to spend would, at best, speed up travel times at rush hour by three minutes.
-- Even though West Salem has experienced population growth, traffic counts across the current two bridges have been flat.
-- For tens of millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions, fixes can be made to the approaches on both ends of the current bridges. This would increase maximum capacity up to 7,000 cars per hour from 4,000.
-- Bigger solution, yet still way cheaper: for $150 million, three lanes can be added to the current eight lanes on the existing two bridges. No need for an exemption to land use laws for a new bridge outside the urban growth boundary that would impact wetlands and other natural areas.
-- Downtown Salem businesses would be hurt significantly by the so-called "Salem Alternative" bridge plan. It would channel traffic away from the downtown core and toward Keizer Station, I-5, and points north.
-- Thus those who are pushing for an unneeded 3rd Bridge are essentially saying, "downtown is disposable."
-- The proposed $400 million bridge would displace 30 existing businesses and 25 homes. (Yet amazingly, the City of Salem isn't planning any public hearing on the new proposal. Apparently condemning all those businesses and homes isn't considered a "significant" change by officials such as Peter Fernandez, Public Works Director).
-- The existing bridges need to be seismically retrofitted. Maintaining the infrastructure we already have should be the top priority. Other smaller bridges close to Salem Hospital also would be unusable after a major earthquake. Again, fix what we already have.
-- Our two current bridges offer redundancy, along with the pedestrian bridge, as this can be used by vehicles in an emergency. Either of the current bridges can handle traffic in both directions should the other bridge be unusable.
So... what is the need for a $400 million new bridge?
Answer: there isn't one. After more than seven years of planning, it's time to put a stop to the Bridge That is Going Nowhere.
Give No 3rd Bridge a Facebook like if you haven't already. Bassett is a No 3rd Bridge leader. I'm looking forward to seeing him do his "Our Watchdog At City Hall" thing once he is elected to the City Council.